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on the broadcast tonight, sending weapons. tonight the prospect of u.s. weapons in the hands of libya's rebel forces. the president says he won't rule it out, so our own richard engel goes inside those rebel forces for a closer look. radiation fears. the nuclear crisis in japan has a lot of people asking could it happen here, and would warning systems work if it did? price check. a new drug to help prevent premature babies, but at what cost for those who need it? and the close call for an american president 30 years ago tonight. what we didn't know until now. also here tonight, the first-ever view of a neighbor of ours. "nightly news" begins now.
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captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. right about now during these past few days across our country, people are watching this unfolding situation in libya. the rebels versus gadhafi. americans have heard president obama defending the u.s. air campaign he ordered, sending our service members to fight a third concurrent conflict far from home. in our conversation with the president yesterday, he wouldn't rule out or in giving american weapons to these rebels. and now you're going to get to see the rebels we're talking about, the side the u.s. is supporting in this war. we're going to begin tonight with nbc news chief foreign correspondent richard engel in benghazi, who spent the day with rebel forces on the ground in libya. richard, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian.
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gadhafi's forces are continuing an offensive, driving back the rebels. gadhafi's troops are also changing tactics, using fewer tanks and more civilian cars to avoid being attacked from the air. the toll is clear on the front line. the rebels seem dejected, many appear confused, somber. no sign of the spirit that brought them just days ago to within striking distance of gadhafi's hometown, which now seems far away. the rebels have no communications, no commanders, but they do have weapons. artillery, mortars, even surface-to-surface rockets. but no idea how to use them. and their enemy is outthinking them. the terrain has now become a decisive factor in this war, which gadhafi's forces are using to their advantage. the rebels stay mostly on or near the main tarmaced roads. gadhafi's forces now in that direction are also on the roads, and they're engaging the rebels,
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but simultaneously, gadhafi's troops are also going out in small teams with mortars in jeeps through the open desert to flank around the rebels and catch them in a cross-fire. until now, it's been easy for western pilots to identify and destroy government tanks. but now that gadhafi is using jeeps that look just like the rebels' vehicles, air support is much harder. on a mission to protect civilians, it's become difficult to know who to bomb. but the rebels do have one invaluable asset, heart. on the front line, we met 25-year-old adnano. from misrata, he was studying in canada, but dropped out of school to come here and fight. he bought his own gun. he doesn't know how to load it. he slept in a car for a week, living on stale bread and tuna fish. he was almost killed today by a rocket attack. >> are you okay? >> no, i'm okay. i don't care about the rockets.
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i don't care. i want to die actually, if i can. it's honor to us, it's freedom. we want freedom. >> reporter: to boost their morale, a few rebels gather in a circle to cheer and fire in the air. but they're losing ground fast and have little to celebrate. we saw two things today, brian, that were revealing about the rebels and also terrifying. in one case, the rebels were trying to fire a mortar, but they didn't secure the mortar to the ground, so it fired wildly off to the side. the other case, they, and i'm not making this up, they fired a rocket in the wrong direction, not toward gadhafi forces but backwards into a civilian city. >> and so, richard, while things don't look exactly rosy for gadhafi and his own foreign minister defected today to the brits, never a good sign, this does interfere with the story line that at least watching in
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this country was the rebel progress, all those graphics and maps showing their march westward. now it looks like they're going eastward most of the time. >> reporter: they are coming eastward and they are moving very quickly. gadhafi's forces are now just about an hour and a half drive from here. they were all the way pushed back to sirte. the rebels' advance has now almost been entirely erased. >> all right. richard engel in benghazi in libya tonight. richard, thanks. now to another front in syria, where we've seen days of protests there against the government. many thought this would be the day president assad of syria would come out and tell his nation that he had decided to offer some real reforms. there's a lot of that going around. perhaps significant changes to years of repressive rule. that was not the case today. nbc's ron allen has our report. >> reporter: god, syria, bashar, they chanted, as president al assad arrived at parliament.
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for days the syrian government had crushed protests with brute force. dozens are believed dead. today they expected him to bend but he took a very hard line and blamed the unrest on outside conspirators. the conspiracy is big and we are not looking for a fight, he said. but we will not hesitate to defend our causes, interests and principles. hopes for reform and an end to 48 years of repressive laws turned out to be wishful thinking. al assad got a well-orchestrated show of support. the only visible dissent, this extraordinary scene. a woman rushing the president's car, quickly subdued. disappointed protesters are reportedly back out, with more expected. earlier this week, near syria's border with jordan, we met an eyewitness who dared speak. >> were you there when the security forces came to town? >> reporter: they invaded our mosque and started killing people, he said.
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tonight analysts say the syrian president seems convinced he can crush any protests. there are reports the military and police are out in force, rounding up a lot of people. >> there will be no limits to what president bashar assad will do. make no doubt about it. >> reporter: today the president said announcing reforms under pressure would be a sign of weakness. the same iron hand that kept his father in power for 30 years before him. ron allen, nbc news, amman. in this country, when presidents and politicians use terms like "u.s. interests" and "the flow of commerce in the middle east and north africa," often those are just euphemisms for oil and the u.s. cannot function without it. we import about 11 million barrels per day. so president obama attempted something today other presidents have attempted. he set an ambitious goal for breaking america's reliance on foreign oil.
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white house correspondent savannah guthrie at the white house tonight with more on this. savannah, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. the president said today we americans have kind of a familiar pattern. we go from shock when prices go up at the pump to a trance when they go back down, never solving the underlying problems. like many presidents before him, he vowed today to change that. >> the president of the united states. >> reporter: under pressure with gas prices at home surging and unrest in the middle east spreading, president obama today outlined his plan to wean america off foreign oil. >> and we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for a secure, affordable energy future. >> reporter: the president's goal, cut oil imports by a third over ten years, by reducing u.s. consumption, greater use of clean energy, biofuels and natural gas, and by boosting oil and gas production here at home. the president accused oil companies of sitting on existing
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oil leases without exploring or drilling. but republicans say it's democrats who are slowing domestic exploration with increased regulation in the wake of the gulf oil spill. >> so the problem isn't that we need to look elsewhere for our energy, the problem is that democrats don't want us to use the energy we have. >> reporter: driven by turmoil in the middle east, the nationwide average cost per gallon has jumped, now $3.55, prices not seen since 2008 in the height of the presidential campaign. >> drill baby, drill. >> reporter: still, a potent pocketbook issue that could affect the president's political fortunes in 2012. >> i've got to be honest. we've run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades. that has to change. >> reporter: and the president said nuclear power is also part of the plan, but in the wake of
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what happened in japan, he's ordered a safety review of all u.s. nuclear plants, brian. >> savannah guthrie at the white house. savannah, thanks. we have more tonight on that disaster in japan. a lot of developments to rort, in fact. a government official out and out said there is no end in sight to this disaster. radiation levels in nearby sea water spiked again to more than 3,000 times the normal level. the president of the company that owns the plant, now a total write-off, is in the hospital currently with high blood pressure. and today japan's emperor and empress made a rare public appearance trying to comfort those who lost all their worldly possessions in the earthquake and tsunami. fresh reports from the epa and others in this country show traces of radiation from that japanese plant have migrated across the pacific ocean, have now reached a total of 14 states here that we know of, including florida and new york. again, officials say these are
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trace amounts, minute amounts, no danger to people, but it is here and in the air. these reports only add to concerns over nuclear plant and overall radiation safety here at home. and the systems the u.s. has in place to monitor radiation in the air, the water, even the food and milk supply. as nbc's george lewis reports, there are some glitches in those systems. >> reporter: the japanese nuclear disaster has this epa lab in alabama on high alert, monitoring the air, the water and samples of milk for any signs of radiation. >> 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we're monitoring the air across the united states. >> reporter: and so far so good. none of the 124 air monitors in the network has picked up any sign of harmful radiation. but, the epa has conceded it's had problems with some of those monitors. on the west coast, only half of them were fully functioning as the fukushima plant in japan
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began emitting radiation. three monitors were out of service and others had to be double checked for potentially faulty data. and while the epa claims this is no big deal, anti-nuclear activists disagree. >> an emergency radiation system should be working, and it is very problematic, an epa system is largely non-functional during this period. >> reporter: then there's the question of what happens if there's a disaster at a u.s. nuclear plant. two in california, diablo canyon and san onofre are built near earthquake faults. many of these commuters along interstate 5 are more than the seven and a half californians living within a 50-mile radius of the san onofre plant. nuclear power critics say because of that, radiation monitoring networks need to be properly running at all times. the company operating san onofre claims it's safe. >> i think it's important for the public to understand that this plant did its homework on
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the risks and then overbuilt. >> this is too loose. >> reporter: still some residents of nearby san clemente say they're frightened. >> they don't realize just how scared the community can get, especially after a crisis like japan. >> reporter: this, as questions are raised about whether it could happen here, and whether warning systems will work if it does. george lewis, nbc news, san onofre, california. something incredible has happened to people in the gulf of mexico who were already victims of the bp spill. now they are victims of potential identity theft. and bp has another massive problem on its hands. our chief environmental correspondent, anne thompson, who spent months covering the disaster in the gulf, is here in the studio with us with this latest problem for bp. anne, this has to do with a lost laptop computer? >> yeah, think about it. i don't know about you, brian, i'm always leaving my devices
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everywhere. apparently a bp employee did just that, on a business trip, lost this laptop. in that laptop was a spreadsheet that contained the personal data of some 13,000 people from louisiana who filed claims with the company after the oil spill. well, today those 13,000 people are now getting this letter which explains what happened. it also tells them what the information that was on there, including their names, addresses, date of birth, phone numbers and of course their social security numbers. so because of that, bp has set up a free credit monitoring service for these people so they can monitor their credit in case -- just in case they would become victims of identity theft. at this point they see no evidence of that happening, but they still haven't found that laptop and it's been gone for almost a month. >> so this disaster continues to play out for people. anne thompson, thanks for that, as always. we'll take a break. up next as "nightly news" continues on a wednesday night, a drug that could mean the difference between life and death for newborn babies. but tonight there's outrage over what it costs.
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and later, we heard the words 30 years ago today, "the president has been shot." tonight, what we didn't know about that day. to
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back now, as we mentioned, with news about a very promising drug that can mean the difference between life and death for newborn babies and save so many families so much heartache. every year, according to the march of dimes, more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the u.s. premature birth is the leading cause of infant death around the globe. the federal government recently approved a new drug to help prevent premature births, but instead of joy what happened next has triggered outrage. our senior investigative correspondent, lisa myers, explains why. >> reporter: 7-year-old maeve is this couple's first child. she's healthy and thriving today, but she was born very prematurely, three weeks in
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intensive care. >> so she really did struggle? >> she did. >> reporter: keelan now is pregnant again with twins and takes weekly injections of a hormone compound designed to delay delivery and enable her babies to develop more fully. several weeks ago, she and others got good news. the fda approved a new drug similar to the compound, called makena. it specifically reduces the risk of preterm births. then came the price. instead of the $20 she had been paying, the drug would cost $1500 a dose. as much as $30,000 during a pregnancy. >> i was incredibly angry that it could possibly go from $10 to $20 a shot to $1500. i was in shock. i couldn't believe that that was even possible. >> reporter: and some doctors are outraged too. >> it's all about money. it's not about the patient. >> reporter: the drug company, kv pharmaceutical, initially said the high price is justified, to recover research and development costs.
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and the company told pharmacies making the cheaper compound that they had to stop. but today the fda said the pharmacies could still make the compound, and the march of dimes and doctors groups are calling on kv to substantially lower the price of the drug. >> if the women can't afford it, we have lost a very significant opportunity to try and make a dent in the very high rate of prematurity in this country. >> reporter: today the embattled drug company said it's heard these concerns. it's committed to making the drug affordable, and will take action on pricing by the end of the week. lisa myers, nbc news, washington. news tonight about hepatitis c, the liver infection that affects more than three million americans. a new drug expected to be available in the next few months doubles the cure rate when given along with two other drugs that are already prescribed. in people with the most common strain of hepatitis c, the cure rate goes from about 35% to about 70% when this new drug
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called victrelis is added to the treatment. when we come back, a name in the news a while back comes roaring back again.
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we have an update tonight on the killer whale that killed a trainer at seaworld in florida about a year ago. today the whale, a 12,000-pound orca named tilikum returned to
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the show, got huge applause, 13 months after dragging a female trainer underwater by her ponytail before thousands of horrified spectators. the same whale has been linked to two other deaths. seaworld's statement actually said it was the whale's choice to return to work, that's chutzpah, and said whales aren't coerced into performing. they also noted new safety precautions in place there. we promised a new look at an old neighbor tonight. nasa today released some incredible photographs, some of the very first closeups ever of the surface of the planet mercury as seen from the lens of the messenger spacecraft on a six and a half year tour of the inner solar system and now in mercury's orbit. just for some scale, that crater is actually 50 miles across. up next here tonight, eyewitness, first-person accounts of what really happened on this day in 1981.
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it was 30 years ago today that we heard the news the president had been shot. and of course we later learned first reports were wrong. he wasn't okay, he had been wounded. it took years for us to learn
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how badly he was hurt. few people knew back then how close ronald reagan came to dying after a bullet from john hinckley's gun caused great internal damage and bleeding, and it all happened just a few months into the reagan presidency. it was a day few people who were alive back then will ever forget. and our very own washington veteran, andrea mitchell, has a look back tonight. >> reporter: march 30th, 1981. a routine stop a mile from the white house, until a gunman fires at the president of the united states point blank. special agent jerry parr's training takes over. he shoves the president into the armored car. at first reagan, whose secret service handle is rawhide appears unharmed. >> rawhide is okay. follow-up. rawhide is okay. >> spots were fired at president reagan in washington as he left the hilton hotel. he was not injured. >> reporter: then everything
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changes. >> he started spitting up bright red, frothy blood. >> roger. we want to go to the emergency room of george washington. >> that's a roger. >> go to george washington fast. >> reporter: dr. joseph giordano was in charge of the e.r. >> when they brought him in the emergency room, he collapsed. there was no discernible blood pressure. we knew that he lost 40%, 50% of his blood volume. a couple of more minutes i think he would have crashed. i don't think he would have survived, to be honest. >> reporter: shelly fieldman was nbc's cameraman. >> there were people who were not press standing alongside of us, behind us. >> reporter: in fact the gunman, john hinckley, was right next to him. >> i saw him holding the gun with two hands and then a bunch of people jumped him and it was like a pyramid of people on top of him. >> reporter: a d.c. policeman and a secret service agent were also injured, but no one as seriously as white house press secretary james brady, shot in
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the head. today brady was back in congress, calling for more controls on guns and visiting the president. >> tell him i was happy to see him. >> reporter: ronald reagan's presidency and presidential protection were never the same. >> what are you going to do when you get home? >> sit down. >> reporter: andrea mitchell, nbc news, washington. that's our wednesday night broadcast. thanks for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we'll look for you back here tomorrow evening. good nhtig. right now at 6:00, lawsuits are hampering bay area restaurants. why symptom say fines for disabled accessibility are creating professional plaintiffs. plus, an east bay community on alert tonight after a teenager says she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted. and new concerns that more california homes are in danger because of risky pipelines.

NBC Nightly News
NBC March 30, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

News/Business. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Gadhafi 11, U.s. 9, Us 7, Washington 6, Savannah 4, Libya 4, Syria 4, Nbc 4, San Onofre 3, United States 3, California 3, Florida 2, America 2, Lisa Myers 2, George Lewis 2, Ronald Reagan 2, Benghazi 2, Nbc News 2, Anne Thompson 2, John Hinckley 2
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